I can say, this was the year of the Digital transformation. I am not sure if this could be the corporate phrase of the year, but if not, it will be very near and at least in the top 3. Now that we are hitting the end of the year, it is good to look back to gather some of the best practice on this area. As digital transformation will be in the top priorities next year as well.
All the companies are saving some buckets of money for digital transformation programs. They are very trendy right now, and you can find or heard the two words in any corporate presentation. But, what is the real status of the digital transformation programs in the market?
I am sure there are tons of definitions, all of them for sure different. Mainly they could talk about technical components, fancy concepts or disruption. Valid concepts all of them but, from my point of view, they are not in the core of the digital transformation essence.
Each company is very different, even two companies from the same industry, with similar business model, could have different needs and situations. A corporate transformation (digital or any other kind of initiative) should be highly customized/personalized. We can not apply same program to different companies and expect good results. Exactly the same for the digitization, a deep assessment of the company, its status and needs is needed, just before to start any project
The digital transformation should be a corporate transformation. Of course companies need to appoint one responsible, and perhaps one team (sit in an certain area of the company). It depends on the sector/industry, but overall the head of marketing or IT should be in the lead. At the end of the day, both are the most impacted areas by these programs. Important to stress out, they are the most important areas, but not the only ones. First point to highlight:
This is a cross-functional program, affecting the full company
One of the most important issues to tackle with this kind of project is the silos. Department concept has been changed by the word team. It indicate a more clear teamwork effort is needed. But this is not a sufficient change. Team need to collaborate across the company. Of course you have a focus area or are specialized in some topics, but should work with an open minded. Each team has their own goals and scope, however it is key to have in mind always the corporate big picture. The digital transformation initiative first goal must be stop the Silo-working approach, and have a broader view and ambition. It is not easy, but it is the real action lever for the success.
This is not a small task. It is about to change the mindset in the teams. It is about people and skills. Both of them, the company need to establish a plan to ensure people have the correct skills to work in this new environment. This is why the digital transformation is impacting in human resources.
There is only one big reason for all the points mentioned above: the customer.
Remember this sentence: No customer, no income, no company. There are very few exception to this. As a consequence, the customer have to be the obsession of any company. Despite it is not difficult to understand, it is not easy to deploy into a company strategy. During the past years, we could hear more and more about customer focus, customer driven or customer obsess strategies. Although there are not enough. Let’s put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. The customer don’t care about the corporate set up (teams), customer only want to resolved problems or get a solution to meet their requirements. The company should be set up around this idea. Any digital transformation initiative could be the perfect spark for this change (big change). We, as companies, want to get the most for our customers, but on the other side, customers wants to have a trustful partner. This is s long term vision.
It is important to acquire new customers, but more important is retain the existing ones. CRM’s strategies are very relevant in this point (and the reason why they should be in the middle of the digital transformation). Let’s look for a long term relationship with our customer, get a high engagement with them. There are not magic recipes for this. But I can remark two points: have a deep knowledge/insights about our customers and ensure we are where they are, when they expect. It is not easy, of course, but do we know how to contact them or how to communicate with them?
One of the most common mistakes in the digital transformation initiative is think that it consists on set up some social media accounts. False! It is important, but for only one reason. Consumers use to be one step ahead from companies, so, we need to follow them up (some case are not like this, check out Apple or other companies). There is a clear trend around social media and instant messaging platform, so why not incorporate it to our plans? We need to attend customers the best way possible. But the first think how are we gonna do it, what is the goal/strategy of each channel, and the correct contact to display/send out per channel. And I am talking about channels, not online channels. The world is not online or offline. It is a pure mix. The key is understand how to find the balance, and when use each one.
The new technologies is not the solution for all our problems
Digital transformation has a heavy impact on technology. And talking about marketing we could say the same. In the last years we observe a sharp trend where technology and marketing merge into the final solution for customers (have you heard about the CMTO role?). Although technology is an function that help to meet goals (as many others), and the strategy could not be set up on deploy a new technology (CRM platform deployment for instance). The technology and systems have to support the processes. And these process should be design for the people working in the company. So, let’s think first in the processes, way of working, and they deploy any kind of technology that could hel us to run our activities and responsibilities in the more efficient way possible. These process should be define taking into account all the above. It means, customer focus, driven or obsess.
There are a lot of new providers in the market offering amazing solutions. But, is this enough or suitable for us. Do we have the correct data in place?
A platform for itself is not gonna to do all the work we need. The tools are like the car, but what about the fuel? Do we have the correct data to work with? The data governance should be part of the digital transformation, the company needs to ensure all the decisions are taken based on data. This is the first step to be data driven. If we become a data driven company, we could measure in a more accurate way the ROI of any initiative.
Long story short, digital transformation is very broad, impact in many areas and there are tons of definitions. In a nutshell we can summarize it is about people, process, data and tools.